Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fearing God vs just being afraid of God

A few years back a friend of mine and co-worker, John Lamb, made this statement (I am paraphrasing because it was in 1997), "the reason we still struggle with sin is because we don't really know what it means to fear God." I thought, "you know, I know intellectually what it means to fear God but I am not sure I practically know."

So I went a journey that Spring of studying all the passages in the bible that relate to fearing God. The first passage I studied and that I often come back to is in Exodus 20:18-21. It's a pivotal scene in the history of mankind. Paul writes in Romans 5 that sin and death entered the world through Adam but it was not taken into account because there was no law. So death reigned from Adam to Moses but people didn't realize they were dead until this scene in Exodus 20.

It's kind of remarkable when you read it again, God spoke and everyone heard the 10 C's. There was thunder, lightening, trumpet sounds and smoke from Mount Sinai. Needless to say, the congregation was scared spitless.

They stayed at a distance and tell Moses, "speak to us yourself and we will listen but don't have God speak to us or we will die." Moses tells them not to be afraid but that God has come to test them, so that the fear of God will keep them from sinning. Then they stay at a distance and Moses enters the thick darkness where God is. (In Deut 5, God says this is a good thing because they would die. "Oh that their hearts would be inclined to fear me...")

They were afraid of God and stayed at a distance. Moses feared God and entered His presence. They were afraid of God and said they would listen to Moses and again in Deut 5 it says they make a commitment to obey what God says. But there is no real life change because in a little over a month they will be worshipping a golden calf. Moses fears God and he is changed - even physically as he enters His presence.

Fearing God draws us to Him and invokes a change in our lives. Being afraid of God is no different than not believing God or being indifferent to Him. We keep Him at a distance and there is no real change. We keep on sinning. Often I ask myself if I am really fearing God or just afraid of Him.

"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. - Psalm 86:11

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